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Have you ever had hot prospects who suddenly stopped returning your calls?Then you know how disconcerting it can be–especially when they’d expressed so much interest in your product or service only days before.
At first, you assume their lack of responsiveness is an isolated situation that will quickly self-correct.
But after repeated failed attempts to connect, you start to question your own sanity.
You could have sworn they were interested, but their current behaviour indicates otherwise.
And, not wanting to appear too desperate or to come across as a real pest, you’re stymied in terms of what your next steps should be.
As a seller, it’s always important to analyse what may be causing this behaviour before taking action.
Here are typical reasons prospects disappear into “The Black Hole”.
Without a doubt, this is the most common reason.
In virtually every company today, people have way too much to do and not nearly enough time to get it all done. They fully intend to continue the conversation, but not right now.
This can happen overnight. Changing market conditions, bad third-quarter results and new leadership are just a few of the possible root causes.
When this happens, it's nearly impossible to regain your momentum in the short term.
Sometimes sellers confuse a prospect's interest level with a desire to take action today.
As such, they share all the glorious details about their offering instead of building a business case for immediate change.
Occasionally prospects just need comparative bids/pricing to justify their decision to go with another company.
When prospects feel they have all the information they need, there's literally no reason to talk with you any further.
Different reasons call for different actions. Some you can prevent by doing things differently in your customer interactions. Always be open to this possibility, since prevention is your best cure.
In any case, you need answers. Is it 'yea' or 'nay'? Is the prospect still interested? Should you keep pursuing him or find new prospects?
When you don't know what's behind a prospect's silence, figuring out how to respond can be a dilemma--especially since you don't want to be a pest. I suggest the following.
realise that prospects expect you to carry the 'keep in touch' burden--so do it.
It might take eight to 10 attempts before you reach them again. Don't panic. This is normal in today's business environment
Don't just leave a voice mail saying, 'Hi, Eric. Just getting back to you as I promised about your xxx decision. If you have any questions, give me a call.'
Instead, you might say, 'Eric, based on our conversation last week, I know how important it is to you to shorten your sales cycle. There's a white paper on our website that addresses this issue. I'll be sending you a link via e-mail shortly.'
After four to five voice mails, leave a funny message such as, 'Eric. I know you're swamped. But I also know that shortening your sales cycle is important to you. That's why I keep bugging you. I'm looking forward to finally reconnecting.'
Mix up phone calls with e-mails, mailings, invitations to upcoming events, sending articles, etc.
To position yourself as a resource, make sure each connection educates, informs or adds insights.
Never let one person be your total gateway to a company. Identify and nurture multiple relationships concurrently.
Just explain matter-of-factly to your contact, 'It's how I can best serve your company's needs.' When appropriate, reference others you're talking to in your messages and e-mails.
To avoid being column fodder, find out if they're serious about making a change from the status quo.
Ask, 'What's causing you to look at other companies instead of staying with your current provider?'
If you've told them everything about your offering, they have no need to meet with you again. To avoid this extremely common mistake, spend only a little time talking about what you do.
Instead, focus on understanding their business issues, challenges and objectives. Then suggest a follow-up meeting to go over your ideas on how to help them in these areas.
Keep up-to-date on their current business priorities. If operational efficiency is a key driver, focus on how your offering can help in this area. If driving revenue growth is most important, align with that.
This is essential in order to stay top-of-mind in their crazy-busy environment.
Never leave one meeting without a homework assignment (for you and the customer) and a firm follow-up appointment.
If the prospect is unwilling to do this, it's an indicator that something may not be quite right--which should prompt you to explore the prospect's need and urgency in greater depth.
Send an e-mail stating that you thought they were interested, but perhaps you misjudged the situation since you haven't heard back from them in six weeks.
Believe it or not, this strategy often gets a response and an explanation from a prospect who is feeling guilty about not reconnecting.
If you haven't heard from a prospect after 10 touches, start contacting him less often. A quarterly schedule might be more appropriate.
Or, you might want to keep on top of what's happening in the account and reconnect at a more appropriate time.
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